Two-third of respondents support a ban on physical punishment of children, nearly 80% support enacting a Mandatory Reporting Mechanism

The recent rise in child abuse cases in Hong Kong has prompted society to rethink using corporal and humiliating punishment as a parenting practice. Save the Children Hong Kong, a leading international NGO supporting the most deprived and marginalised children, has recent research on the public’s view towards child discipline practices and corporal punishment, gathering responses from 300 adults in Hong Kong.

Physical and verbal punishment by caregivers are still prevalent in Hong Kong. According to the latest survey conducted by Save the Children Hong Kong, nearly half (43%) of respondents have witnessed a child being physically punished or verbally humiliated by a caregiver in the past year. Over 80% of respondents believe children will be spoiled if their parents do not punish them and 43% agree that parents should have the right to decide whether to spank their young children, showing punishment is still a common form of discipline in Hong Kong.

However, the results also show the public support for additional measures to prohibit physical and humiliating punishment agaist children. Almost all respondents (95%) do not think physical punishment is the best way to discipline children. Around two-thirds of respondents (63%) agree that physical punishment of children should be prohibited, while around 60% agree that humiliating punishment of children should be prohibited in all settings.

Parents should be mindful that spanking or swatting children put them on a behavioral slippery slope that could escalate to unacceptably severe physical punishment or even child abuse. Besides, though humilitating punishment is not often considered as serious as other forms of violence, the effects can cause impactful and long-lasting psychological scars according to experts. Save the Children encourages the Government and community organisations to strengthen parent education in Hong Kong, in order to provide parents and caregivers with appropriate guidance and support in positive parenting. According to the survey regarding the role of the government and civil society organizations, around 80% of respondents suggest to offer professional training to related professionals (e.g. teachers, social workers, doctors and childcare workers) for early identification and prevention of child abuse incidents and 72% think large-scale parenting education programmes to provide appropriate guidance to all parents and caregivers to increase their knowledge in nurturing their children is needed.

Law reform is crucial for ensuring children’s protection from physical and humiliating punishment, as it serves as a foundation for raising awareness in society and conveying a clear message about the need of putting children’s best interests first. Referring to Chief Executive’s policy address 2021, the Government  has decided to formulate a legislative proposal to set up a mandatory reporting mechanism on child abuse cases. Approximately 80% of respondents think that professionals should be legally required to report suspected child abuse instances, indicating that the majority of the public supports mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases.

Children have a right to protection from physical and mental violence. Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong, said, “We are pleased to see the government’s efforts to formulate a legislative proposal for a mandatory reporting mechanism on cases of child abuse. This is an important step to protect children from different forms of abuse. We recommend the government to develop and implement a comprehensive law to prohibit corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading punishment of children in all settings.”

As a child-focused organisation, Save the Children Hong Kong has been supporting positive parenting through our signature Heart to Heart Parent-Child Programme to enhance parent-child communication and relationships, while helping to ensure that the physical and mental health needs of children are being addressed through our Mental Wellbeing Programmes.

For detailed survey results, please click here.